Here at The Draft Network, we focus on the draft journey. We talk about what college players have done to set themselves up for success at the pro level, where they should be drafted, what teams would be good fits, and how we see their careers playing out. But once they do get drafted, even the best wishes aren’t guaranteed.
Running back Chase Edmonds learned that early on. After being drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth round in 2018, the standout Fordham ball carrier who rushed for almost 6,000 yards and 70 touchdowns in four collegiate seasons, had to wait his turn. Edmonds played in just 198 offensive snaps in his first season and 207 in the season after as he sat behind running backs David Johnson and Kenyan Drake. This past season, however, with just Drake in front of him on the depth chart, Edmonds saw a career-high in snaps with 525 to Drake’s 615.
This past offseason, Drake signed a two-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders, leaving Edmonds as the man on top of the Cardinals’ depth chart going into the draft cycle. The Cardinals signed James Conner (formerly with the Pittsburgh Steelers) to the roster, but they didn’t draft any running backs, meaning Edmonds will have as good a shot as any to be the team’s top back in 2021. When asked about it earlier this offseason, he seemed quite excited about the opportunity.
“It's now or never,” Edmonds said. “I've finally got my opportunity really and truly in front of me to have a pretty big role in this offense. It's something I've been dying for, praying for, since my first three years in the NFL. It seemed like it would never happen, but I've finally got this opportunity, and I've got to make the most of it.”
It’s not a failure that the Cardinals are sitting here with Edmonds as their top back. Arizona didn’t go into the year desperate to get its starting running back believing it didn't have one on the roster. The Cardinals seemed to have faith in Edmonds, who head coach Kliff Kingsbury spoke highly of during the 2020 season.
“We all feel like he’s a starting running back in this league, and he does, too,” Kingsbury said. “We felt that confident in what Chase brings. When he had his opportunities, he shined, and he continues to shine. He can catch it, run it, block, play special teams, and he’s really bright football-wise. He’s everything you want.”
Edmonds didn't come close to the carry load given to Drake last season; he only saw 97 carries to Drake’s 239. But Edmonds was more the team’s top receiving option out of the backfield with 53 catches on 67 targets. Those 53 catches were seventh-best in the NFL for all running backs. This bodes well for Edmonds to be a key contributor and even perhaps far and away the top back for the Cardinals this season. Edmonds has also averaged healthy yards-per-carry numbers over the last two years with 5.1 in 2019 and 4.6 in 2020. Edmonds hasn’t been the best pass blocker, but his Pro Football Focus grades in that category haven’t been awful, especially in 2019 when he graded quite well there.
Connor’s presence on the team will likely mean that there will be some sort of a rotation between he and Edmonds, but that shouldn’t be discouraging to those who wish to call Edmonds the team’s RB1. That is shaping up to still be the case, especially given the fact that Connor has missed time over the last few seasons with injury. Connor could be more of the short-yardage back to start while Edmonds gets the first crack at most other running back duties.
Nothing in the NFL is a guarantee, and Edmonds knows it. He’s choosing to take that fact and turn it into motivation, realizing how important of a year this 2021 season can be for him.
“I'm ready to run through a damn wall,” Edmonds said. “I'm really ready to prove myself right. People don't understand how bad. I get what people are saying. I get the arguments and (expletive), but I really couldn't care less. I'm going to go out there and I'm going to ball out this year.”